By: Addison Wylie
A familiar rule of thumb states that one should stick to what they know. Comedian Adam Carolla has used that guidance to establish his filmmaking career. It’s how he created some big laughs with his cathartic comedy Road Hard, a film featuring Carolla playing a cranky stand-up comic.
Fans of the Aceman know that Carolla is also quite knowledgable about cars, racing, and the days of classic Hollywood. It makes complete and total sense for him to be fascinated with actor Paul Newman and the actor’s passion for racing. However, while the material is familiar ground for Carolla, the documentary genre marks uncharted water. This may be why collaborator Nate Adams has been brought on to co-direct. Some extra support never hurts.
Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman is a serviceable recount of Newman’s “other career”. For those who were unaware of Newman’s life on the racetrack, this documentary informs that crowd well; providing lots of juicy interviews with those who appreciated Newman’s humble class. The film may be old news for those who are savvy to the movie’s content, but the doc will still be worthwhile considering how badly the filmmakers don’t want to skimp out on any details. They respect Newman, and they want to make a movie that would do him proud.
Robert Wagner and Robert Redford offer sweet responses when asked to remember the late Cool Hand Luke actor. Wagner recalls how Newman was first introduced to racing on the set of Winning, and like the flu, he couldn’t get rid of its infectious qualities. Other friends, colleagues, and mentors are asked questions that make their heart swell up with sentimentality. The clips effortlessly convince the audience of how influential Newman’s positivity, genuine gratitude, and fruitful mind had on the people around him. The flick is light on being analytical, but committed to the emotion.
Once Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman starts focusing on Paul Newman’s charitable salad dressing funds, the filmmakers cave and pretty much admit the film is here to honour a class act. That’s a nice gesture and all, but I found myself drifting and wishing Carolla and Adams would eventually make a documentary about the need for speed and addictions to adrenaline. The filmmakers could’ve used Newman’s story as a base, and then built up to other topics.
Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman does the trick, but something tells me there’s a whole other movie – a deeper movie – to be made here.